World's biggest bee rediscovered in Indonesia

An image of a living Wallace’s giant bee compared to a honeybee

The giant insect is as long as an adult's thumb, and not a single one of them had been seen since 1981.

The world's largest bee species, missing for 38 years, was presumed extinct, but scientists have discovered a female specimen of Wallace's giant bee inside a termite nest on one of Indonesia's Maluku Islands. With a wingspan of two and a half inches - as long as a human thumb - and four times larger than a European honeybee, Wallace described the female as "a large black wasp-like insect, with huge jaws like a stag-beetle". "Local informants had never seen the bee prior to its rediscovery, although a specific folk epithet, o ofungu ma koana, 'king bee, ' is based on it". "The female Wallace's giant bee that we found was very calm and unthreatening and showed no sign of aggression toward our team".

"It was absolutely breathtaking to see this "flying bulldog" of an insect that we weren't sure existed any more", photographer Clay Bolt told The Guardian.

Wallace's Giant Bee, which Life Science described as a "nightmare" of a creature, was spotted in the Indonesian province of North Maluku in January.

The bee was first discovered in 1858 by naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, who developed the theory of evolution by natural selection at the same time as Charles Darwin. He also said Wallace's giant bees are "relatively solitary", according to the newspaper. "To actually see how handsome and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible".

The Global Wildlife Conservation is a nonproft that's been searching for "lost" species, or species that might not actually be extinct, but haven't been seen in a decade or more.

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Messer was the last scientist to document the supersize bees in the wild - until now.

The newly rediscovered Wallace's Giant Bee, also called "Raja ofu", or king of bees, has gained widespread media attention.

The next time the bee was seen was 1981 when American entomologist Adam Messer reported sightings on three different Indonesian islands.

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt was the first to take photos and videos of the species after years of research. In the study, which builds upon their discovery that bees understand the concept of zero (what?!), the researchers "showed bees can be taught to recognise colours as symbolic representations for addition and subtraction, and that they can use this information to solve arithmetic problems", as explained in a statement from RMIT. Females are twice as big as the males.

"To actually see how handsome and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible", Bolt, who captured the insects on film, said in a statement.

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